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.“She was, uh, drinking club soda.She planned on driving, but I convinced them to stay.We were having too much fun.”Sarah hadn’t told everyone yet.And since she’d put off making the announcement, Abby knew it was Sarah’s news to tell, not hers.Sarah had recovered and shook her head at Abby.“It’s okay,” she said.“I might as well start telling people anyway now that the cat’s out of the bag.” She looked up at Tom.“I’m pregnant.”Abby’s heart melted even further as a soft smile spread across Tom’s face.He hugged Sarah, lifting her off her feet.“Congratulations.Now you be careful, you hear? It took you long enough to get this way.Don’t want to shake anything loose.”“I will, promise.Let me down.”Tom was looking at his cousin with such affection that Abby had to look away for a moment.As much as she didn’t want to admit it, hearing the whole story last night about Erin changed things.She got out a fourth plate and fork and handed it to him.“Have a pancake.”Sarah plopped one on his plate and smiled, but Tom held Abby’s gaze.“What whole kiss thing?”Of course he wouldn’t let that go.“Oh,” she covered, hoping she sounded convincing.“Just a movie we watched last night, that’s all.”The gleam in his eyes made her think he wasn’t convinced, but she turned away and grabbed her own breakfast.If he didn’t believe her, he’d have to prove she was wrong.And blood ties or not, she got the feeling that Sarah and Jess would back her up.But Tom let the subject go and the four of them took the simple meal out to the sun porch on the back of the house.Abby couldn’t help but stare at Tom’s arms as he wrestled with the tight windows, easing them up and letting in the early summer air.The chatter was deliberately light and Abby praised the work he’d done in her absence.“I like the mirror.It should stay,” she said, sliding a sideways look at him as he cut his pancake with the side of his fork.“And you don’t mind about the chandelier?”“No, I’m glad you found someone.Does this mean we can start on painting the upstairs now?”“Yes.We don’t have anything else until the cupboards and countertops come in.The painting crew is coming later this morning.”“We should get going so you can get to work,” Sarah said, picking up plates.Breakfast had definitely filled a hole, but Abby knew she’d kill for a cup of coffee and she was out of both grounds and milk.“I’ll get that, Sarah.” She turned to Tom.“Is there anything you need in town? I know I can’t use the kitchen much, but I’d like to get a few things to tide me over.Like coffee.”“I wouldn’t say no to coffee,” he replied.“I didn’t bother with it this morning.”In no time flat the girls had the kitchen tidied and Tom was already covering the furniture in the spare bedroom with sheets and taping off the trim.Abby left at the same time as Jess and Sarah, and when she came back, two more trucks were in the yard.She was a little relieved.After all she’d learned about Tom, she wasn’t sure she was ready for one-on-one time.She was still letting all of the information settle so she could make sense of it.She’d misjudged Tom.He’d done the noble thing and stepped aside when all was said and done.If he’d loved Erin—and he must have—it couldn’t have been an easy thing to do.Abby put on a pot of coffee and gathered up some gardening materials she’d found in the garage.She poured a cup for herself in an insulated mug and then called into the hall, “Hey, Tom, coffee’s on.Help yourself.”She stepped outside into the moist summer air that smelled of grass and leaves and rosebuds.Marian had tended this garden with love and care.Now it was time for Abby to do the same.* * *The whole damn day had been torture.He’d come earlier than the guys today, hoping to catch a few moments alone with Abby.He owed her an apology, after all.And not the half-assed one he’d given her the night of the barbecue.It had been especially clear when she was gone and he was working in her house alone.He’d missed her.But instead of a warm and sleepy Abby, he’d found his meddling cousins invading Abby’s kitchen like a couple of teenagers.Hell, they’d even had a slumber party.And then his crew had shown up and they’d started painting.He had fans going now, trying to minimize the fumes.George and the boys had already left in their trucks, so the only chance Tom had had all day to speak privately to her was now, when he was finished for the day.She was still out in the garden.He stepped outside, wandering around to the side of the house where the pathways meandered, all leading to the lattice arch and the profusion of rosebushes that surrounded it.She’d been busy.The bushes were neatly trimmed back, the deadwood pulled out, and she’d built a brush pile down over the side hill, away from the other trees.She’d pulled so many weeds from the flower beds that her wheelbarrow was rounded with them.Now that the garden was cleaned out, Tom could see the perennials that had withstood the test of time.Too choked to grow properly, the green stalks of lilies, irises, and phlox became clear.A lilac bloomed in one corner of the garden, and along one side she’d pulled away tall grass to let the rhododendrons have their space, their brilliant pink and purple flowers announcing the arrival of early summer.It was going to be gorgeous when she got it done.Abby knelt on a foam pad and sat up, stretching out her back, oblivious to him standing there.The stretch exaggerated the curve of her breasts and the long column of her neck, and then she pulled off her glove and rubbed her neck with her fingers, closing her eyes and tilting her head to one side.Tom thought about rubbing it for her, working out the tight muscles and the kinks.She’d looked at him differently this morning.The last time she’d been so angry.So hurt.Not that he could blame her for that.But this morning it had been different.She’d teased him, acted like nothing had happened.He wondered if he had Jess and Sarah to thank for that.Wondered exactly how much they’d told her about him, and Erin, and Josh, and what a messed-up situation it had been.While he watched, she put her glove back on and went to work on another patch of weeds.What would he say to her, anyway? How could he explain about Erin without sounding like a complete jerk?He knew what she thought.That he’d gone after his cousin’s wife.That he hadn’t was merely a technicality.He’d hovered on the brink, unbearably tempted.Maybe he’d never followed through, but in his mind and in his heart he’d done it a thousand times and he hated himself for it.He could never explain it all without tarnishing the memory of Erin.She was gone.He’d be damned if he’d put an ounce of the blame on her now.Abby deserved better.So he turned around and walked away, out of the garden and back to his truck.The early-summer evening was slow and lazy as he drove into town, past Memorial Square, and parked along the vibrant waterfront.Pockets of people clustered around vendors and storefronts, spilling off the narrow sidewalk onto the plush grass.Someone’s rosebushes were blooming nearby and the scent filled the air, mingled with the smell of fresh fish straight off the boat.They were familiar aromas, ones he’d smelled for as long as he could remember.At least some things never changed.Jewell Cove would always be exactly what it was.The tourists would come and go, people would move in and move away, but there was a stasis to it that was strangely comforting.He’d been inside among the paint fumes all day [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]